Truly, Colorado is so packed with majestic mountain trails that one could wander nomadically for a year, and probably still not see them all. While this wealth of outdoor potential is phenomenal, it’s also good to know which hikes are close enough to Denver that you can dash out on a day off, and still be back in time to grab a bite to eat at one of the city’s huge variety of restaurants. Luckily for you, we have compiled such a list. These are our top picks for the best day hikes near Denver, CO.
St. Mary’s Glacier Loop
St. Mary’s is an easy to moderate difficulty trail starting near Idaho Springs, made up of rocky paths and beautiful views. Also being a relatively short hike, at just 1.6 miles, it’s easy for families and casual hikers alike, although hiking boots are still recommended.
At the end of the trail, you’ll see a clear, pristine glacier-fed lake, which in the Summer is surrounded by flowers and willow trees. From there, you can choose to hike the rest of the way up to the glacier, if you do, be sure to bring a coat and proper footwear.
Roxborough State Park
This amazing State Park of over 4,000 square acres has a variety of trails for all skill levels and ages. Fountain Valley Trail is particularly family-friendly, with 2.2 miles of trail winding through remarkable red rock formations.
It also has optional guided hikes where naturalists will educate you on the natural significance and uniqueness of the area, which is designated a national natural landmark, partly because 1.2 billion years of geological history can be seen in its formations.
This majestic, moderately difficult hike of 5.3 miles is in Rocky Mountain National Park, and includes a 10 meter tall Alberta Falls, breathtaking views of several mountain peaks, all about 13k feet in altitude, and a crossing over Glacier Creek.
With this being a longer hike, you’ll probably want to bring a meal, and have a picnic by the roaring waters of Glacier Creek, and enjoy one of the premium scenic locations in all of Colorado.
Royal Arch Trail
Named after the arch of sandstone which stands 20 feet high and serves as the primary end-point or destination of this trail, the Royal Arch Trail is located in Boulder Mountain Parks, outside of Boulder. The Royal Arch itself provides an idyllic vista of Boulder, and the surrounding foothills.
This is a popular trail, so it’s a good idea to try and go at an off time, on a weekday perhaps, early in the morning, etc. This being a 5.3 mile moderate or difficult trail, you may want to check out some of the other options at Chautauqua Park, as it does include many easier trails, as well.
Ouzel is a moderate hike of 5.4 miles which is known for the exotic wildflowers that can be found along the trail. In particular, the calypso orchid is the rarest, and most sought-after flower of the trail, and looking for them adds an extra element of fun to the hike, if you’re interested in flora.
The hike itself is pretty easy, with much of it being flat, and some being a gentle incline. Of course, the Ouzel Falls trail eventually reaches Ouzel Falls, a 40 foot waterfall; at over 9k feet in elevation, is well worth the effort!
More information on day hikes near Denver, Colorado